In 2008, Admiral Gary Roughead, U.S. Navy, then Chief of Naval of Operations, established Task Force Energy and Task Force Climate (prior to the Obama Administration). Since then, Task Force Energy has provided a serious focal point for fostering changing Navy thinking and approaches to energy use and demand.
The Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, has established three core priority areas: acquisition (read shipbuilding) improvement and ‘reform'; unmanned systems; and energy. In October 2009, Secretary Mabus laid out five key “stretch” targets on energy issues that include significant attention to energy efficiency and targets for 50 percent of the Navy’s energy sourcing to be from ‘alternative’ sources by 2020 (Navy Energy Goals, pdf). The Department of the Navy (the Secretariat, the Navy, and the Marine Corps) has made serious steps forward across this agenda in the two years since along with garnering significant press attention along the way.
This Monday provided another milestone event as, with the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, Secretary Mabus announced “the single largest biofuel purchase in government history”.
That announcement came in amid reading two key publications by the current (as of 1 October) Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert. The first, the “CNO’s sailing directions” (pdf), provides the public statement as to the CNO’s priorities and vision for the Navy under his stewardship. The second is an article in the December 2011 U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Navy 2025: Forward Warfighters, which provides the CNO’s vision as to the world the Navy will face 14 years hence and what that future Navy might look like.
While likely to have read these pieces with energy and climate in mind, the biofuel announcement assured that these were on the mind when reading these two publications. The CNO’s Sailing Directions and the Proceedings article are rather interesting reading from this lens. While the previous CNO (Roughead) , and the Secretary of the Navy has “energy” as one of his three focus areas, looking through these two critical leadership documents the only serious discussion of energy is this:
We also will maintain rotational deployments in the Middle East and Indian Ocean. In 2025 those forces—along with our forward-stationed patrol boats, minesweepers, and littoral combat ships—will deter aggression in the region. With our local Persian Gulf partners and international allies such as the United Kingdom and Japan, those forces will also help ensure the Strait of Hormuz remains open; oil will remain the world’s most versatile fuel and chemical feedstock.
While reading these two documents, the Department of the Navy announced its largest ever biofuels purchase within an intent that 50% of the Navy’s energy be from alternative sources by 2020. Even recognizing that these are just two documents and Admiral Greenert has talked about energy at places like the Naval Energy Forum, these are two critical documents about his vision for the U.S. Navy’s future and the absence of any direct discussion of energy sparked a question: Does the CNO’s failure to discuss energy issues in any substantive way and with the only energy comment in these two important documents a paean to oil (even if a basically accurate statement) suggest that he doesn’t view Monday’s purchase as a preview of where the Navy will be in 2025?
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